Life sucks.

That was the only thought going through my head as I looked around my new apartment. Well, 'new' wasn't exactly the best word to describe the run down, cramped, and dismal two-room living area. Maybe 'previously-owned-by-a-drug-runner' apartment would be more fitting.

I sighed heavily before dropping my suitcase and duffel bag on the stained carpet. Deciding that I would unpack later, I walked across the room and turned on the T.V., almost putting my hand through the screen when all I got was static. I went over to the kitchenette and fiddled with the faucet, not surprised at all when the water that came sputtering out was thick and gritty.

I poked around the small space for a little longer. Just when I thought that I would maybe be able to bear living there, a cockroach scuttled along the wall and beneath my little moth-eaten bed. That was it. Grabbing my jacket, I got out of that hell-hole as fast as possible.

It had just rained, and as I stepped out of the apartment complex and onto the street, I was struck by the clean, refreshing smell that always comes after a storm. My mood lifted slightly as I began to walk deeper into the city, the sky overhead obscured by heavy gray clouds. It was a peaceful afternoon, and any normal person would have put their worries aside to enjoy it.

But, of course, I was far from normal. Just a minute or two into my walk, I had already begun to stress about my money situation. When someone gets thrown out of their house, they rarely get a monthly check to go with it. I had spent what little cash I had on the down payment for my apartment, and I barely had enough left to get myself some coffee. Speaking of coffee, I could use something hot…

I veered off my course and ducked into the closest café I could find, a little place called Kairi's. It was warm and cozy, with flowers on every table and a huge glass case proudly displaying the different baked goods that were offered. My mouth watered and my stomach grumbled, pointedly reminding me that I hadn't eaten since the night before.

I made my way to the cash register, where a very pretty red-headed girl was writing something on a notepad. She looked up and smiled sunnily as I approached the counter.

"Hi, I'm Kairi! What would you like?" she asked.

"Hi, I'm Sora!" I replied, "And I'd just like a cup of coffee, please."

The girl happily complied, disappearing into the back of the café for a moment before returning with an oversized mug filled to the brim with sweet-smelling coffee.

"Are you sure you don't want something to go with that?" she asked. "You look awfully hungry."

"Thanks, but I'm not sure I have enough money," I answered, my cheeks flushing slightly with embarrassment. "But the coffee smells fantastic!"

Suddenly, I felt someone's hand on my shoulder. I jumped in surprise, nearly spilling the coffee I had just picked up. I turned around just in time to see a tall, silver-haired man place a ten dollar bill on the counter.

"Pick whatever you want," he told me.

Before I could say anything, Kairi had practically leaped over the counter and wrapped the stranger in a huge hug.

"Riku, it's so nice to see you!" she exclaimed happily. "How have you been?"

The man smiled slightly before returning the hug. "I've been all right. How about you?"

"Great, just great. Wow, I can't believe you're here! Why didn't you call me or anything?"

"…I was busy." Riku released Kairi and looked over at me with sea-green, unreadable eyes. He was dressed in jeans, a black shirt, and a leather jacket. He looked like he might have been nineteen or something. "Who's this?"

"Oh, sorry," Kairi said, and waved a hand at me. "Riku, this is my new friend, Sora. Sora, this is my stepbrother Riku."

"Hi," I said, slightly intimidated by Riku's quiet, icy demeanor. I flushed before handing him back the ten dollars. "You don't have to, really."

Riku didn't say anything, just pushed the money back in my hand. "It's fine. Kairi's right—you look hungry."

Part of me—namely, my stomach—really wanted to accept the money and buy one of those awesome-looking slices of pie. But a larger part of me—my pride—just wouldn't allow it. I may have been disowned, but I sure as heck wasn't to the begging level. Yet.

Slowly, I placed the ten dollars on the counter, along with my final few dollars to pay for my now-frigid coffee. Picking up the mug, I quickly drained it before placing that next to the cash register as well.

"Thanks for the coffee," I said. Both step-siblings looked at me; Kairi with open curiosity, and Riku with something I couldn't read. "It was nice meeting you both."

Shoving my hands in my pockets, I walked past them and onto the street. I hadn't gone three steps before it started raining. Great, I thought miserably, first I had to go and be a complete jerk to Kairi and Riku, and now this.

Lowering my head, I kept walking down the street as the rain began to fall even harder. In seconds I was soaked completely through. Luckily, though, my apartment was only a block or two away.

It wasn't until I was standing in front of my door that I realized I had locked myself out. And, because God loved me so much, my apartment was one of those that opened onto an open-air hallway. So there I was, pounding futilely on my door as rain and wind relentlessly pounded me on the back.

After ten minutes of throwing curses at the sky, I walked back onto the street and began to wander aimlessly around as the sun started to set. It was dark and still raining when I made my way into a little park that was nestled behind some very large, very corporate-looking buildings. I found a park bench that was at least partially sheltered by some limp, sickly trees. I huddled on it, the hard wooden slats digging into my back. Despite the horribly miserable conditions though, I was asleep in minutes.

"Do you make it a habit to spend the night in parks?"

Startled out of my sleep, I opened my eyes blearily to see that silver-haired man from the day before standing over me, an amused smile on his face. It took me a moment to remember his name, but when I did I said it out loud.



"Why are you here? How did you know I was here?" God, my head was killing me.

"I didn't know you were here." He pointed at one of those office buildings behind me. "I work there. I was on my way in when I saw you over here on the bench. Now, once again, why are you in the park?"

I opened my mouth to answer, but instead a monstrous sneeze exploded out of me. I then proceeded to collapse into a very violent coughing fit that left my chest burning and me gasping for breath. My head pounded wickedly. I swear I could hear my brain screaming as it swelled so much it would burst.

Riku sat next to me on the bench and placed a cool, elegant hand on my forehead. "You have a severe fever," he informed me as I started coughing again. "Come on, I'm taking you home."

I shook my head, wincing at the pain the action brought. "I locked myself out of my apartment," I explained.

Riku shook his head as well. "No, I meant I'm taking you to my home. Well, Kairi's home, anyway; she's letting me stay there while I'm in town. She has the day off. She'll take care of you."

I wanted to argue, but I was too sick to even think straight.

"Fine," I sniffled, and then sneezed. I made as if to stand up, but Riku suddenly was on his feet and picked me up bridal-style. I blushed furiously, hoping that I was red enough from the fever for it to blend in. Unfortunately, judging by the small smirk the taller man wore, I wasn't.

"You're too sick to walk," he said, but that didn't stop me from deepening in color until I was rivaling the fire hydrants lining the sidewalk. Riku carried me to his car, a sleek black Jaguar, and set me down in the front seat. He slid into the driver's seat, buckled his seatbelt, and turned the ignition on. "Bleed It Out" blasted from the speakers.

"Linkin Park?" I asked, trying vainly to smother my coughs.

"Is that a problem?" he replied.

"No, I love them," I answered.

Riku nodded and began driving, heading towards God knew where. If I had known what was going to happen, I would have thrown myself from the car then and there.

But unfortunately, life just doesn't work like that, now does it?